Frimley NHS trust staff strike for two days over hived-off ‘tax avoiding’ company

Frimley NHS Foundation Trust hospital Wrexham Park
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A ‘human chain’ to save the NHS and a rally are key features of a two day strike by staff at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust who face being transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) designed to avoid paying tax.

Workers at the Foundation Trust said that its estates’ management, equipment maintenance, catering, portering, procurement and security staff, numbering about 90, will strike on Monday (18 November) from 7 am until 7am on Tuesday (19 November).

This will be followed by a second strike from 7am on 19 November to 7am on 20 November.

Unite will be coordinating  the strike action with Unison and the GMB union – altogether about 1,000 staff at Frimley Park Hospital, Camberley; Wexham Park Hospital, Slough; and Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot are affected by the trust’s plans.

On Monday between 6:30 – 8:30am, there will be a protest outside the maternity parking entrance at Wexham Park Hospital which will be followed by an anti-WOS rally in Slough town centre between 12:00 – 14:00.  Pickets will be on duty at the three sites from 06:30. 
On Tuesday between 12:30 – 13:00 there will be a ‘Hands off the NHS’ human chain around Frimley Park Hospital.

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “The protests we will be holding next week demonstrate the depth of anger at what we believe is biggest proposed wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) in England so far, which could adversely affect up to a 1,000 employees at the trust.

“Our members have voted overwhelmingly that they have no wish to be employed by a WOS designed to avoid paying tax.

“They are concerned that their pay and employment conditions will be seriously eroded if that happens and that, in turn, will lead to services for patients being adversely affected.

“We are calling on the trust’s board to ditch these misguided and flawed plans. We are seeking an undertaking from the trust that it will agree to continue to employ all our members and not transfer them to a WOS.

“We are strongly against the formation of these entities which, we believe, could lead to a Pandora’s Box of Carillion-type meltdowns – with knock-on effects for patient services and jobs.

“Our members consider that the identity of their employer is a condition of their contract of employment and do not wish that being changed unilaterally.”

The Frimley trust provides NHS hospital services for about 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and south Buckinghamshire. Unite has 220 members at the trust and only balloted those directly affected by the WOS.

Unite members voted by 92 per cent to strike.